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Your Voice Being Heard In Washington On ATC User Fees For GA

House Version Much Friendlier Than Senate's

It's Far From Over

The process of developing an FAA funding bill and making it law is far from over. Both House and Senate versions have been forwarded to other committees within those bodies that will have a say in the taxes and fees, as well as science- and technology-related investments in the final bill.

The House Bill has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, which will set aviation fuel and passenger ticket taxes. As it makes its way through the various committees, there will be numerous opportunities for congressmen to offer amendments that could fundamentally change the proposed legislation.

The Senate Bill is under review by the Senate Finance Committee, which may set final taxes and proposed user fees. Again, amendments could alter the final proposal.

After full committee review, both bills head to their respective chambers for a floor vote. When passed, the two versions head to a conference committee comprised of appointed lawmakers from both houses of Congress.

The conference committee will "reconcile" the two versions. It can adopt any provision from the two bills, or develop an entirely new provision, such as a new user fee, and place it in the compromise bill. After approved in conference, the joint bill goes to the full House and Senate for votes. If passed by both chambers, it goes to the president who can sign or veto it.

June 29, 2007 — General aviation (GA) won a significant round against air traffic control user fees when the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed its "ATC fee-less" FAA Reauthorization Proposal (H.R. 2881) on Thursday, June 28. However, the issue is far from over, as the Air Transport Association (ATA) and others who support user fees are pressing hard to establish pay-as-you-go systems for general aviation, ostensibly to replace the 4.3-cent-per-gallon airliner fuel tax.

And don't forget, the Senate version passed earlier includes an ATC user fee for GA.

EAA is urging its members to remain fully engaged by continuing to let their elected representatives in Washington know they won't stand for GA user fees.

"This is a start, but we cannot rest with this news," said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. "The airlines will redouble their efforts to try and have their taxes put on the backs of general aviation pilots and aircraft owners. We need to keep up the pressure to make sure to put a stop to ATC user fees."

Here are the major points of what the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved:

  • $13 billion for FAA Facilities and Equipment for implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System. This reinforces the GA community's contention that the FAA could move forward with NextGen without imposing user fees.
  • An increase in the current general aviation gasoline tax from 19.3 cents per gallon to 24.1 cents per gallon and from 21.8 cents per gallon to 30.7 cents per gallon for Jet-A. These increases reflect the rate of inflation since their last authorization in 1998.
  • FAA- and EAA-supported language regarding the release of information contained in abandoned type certificates. The bill's language does not contain revised language EAA submitted regarding currently supported type certificated products, so there is still some work to do in this area. But this is a good step in addressing the needs of vintage aircraft owners.
  • Review of Flight Service Station operations ordered. The FAA is required to review and report back to Congress on administrative problems with FSS operations since the transition to Lockheed Martin.

No, it's not perfect?

The House bill would increase fees for various FAA services, like a one-time aircraft registration fee hike from $5 to $130.

Committee members also voted along party lines to include a provision for the FAA to renegotiate the labor contract with the nation's air traffic controllers union. This controversial issue is seen by many as producing a large hurdle that could significantly delay or derail the legislative process.

EAA is asking each and every member to contact their elected representatives. Tell Senators to urge removal of the Modernization Surcharge/User Fee and keep the airlines' 4.3-cent fuel tax, because not doing so would damage the Aviation Trust Fund. Any letter should also ask the Senators to align with the House bill to secure GA's future. (Additional information on this bill and future user fee action as well as a sample letter can be found on the user fee section of EAA website.

At the same time, give credit where it's due; tell your House representative you applaud the bill for its exclusion of ATC user fees.

"This is a positive step in our efforts to prevent the establishment of a user fee system," said EAA president Tom Poberezny. "EAA is appreciative of the members of the House Aviation subcommittee who listened to general aviations' concerns and responded in such a positive way."

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